Arrest made for 2018 antisemitic graffiti at Mandeville synagogue

A 20-year-old Jefferson Parish man with a history of Nazi-style social media posts has been arrested and charged with the September 2018 antisemitic graffiti vandalism of Northshore Jewish Congregation in Mandeville.

On March 10, Caine Zander Brown was arrested at his home in Jefferson and charged with one count of criminal damage to property by graffiti and one count of hate crimes, both of which are felonies.

Mandeville Police Chief Gerald Sticker said “I am elated that we apprehended this individual! I am happy for my Northshore Jewish Congregation and all of our citizens in Mandeville.”

In a statement, the Anti-Defamation League, Jewish Federation of Greater New Orleans and the Jewish Community Relations Council welcomed the news of this arrest “and what it means for the Jewish community and the community at large.”

The graffiti was discovered on Sept. 5, 2018, a week before Rosh Hashanah. The congregation is the only synagogue on the North Shore of Lake Pontchartrain, north of New Orleans. The spray-painted graffiti on the wall in the back of the building had two swastikas in red and black, a red cross, the phrase “synagogue of Satan” and the term 14/88.

The number 88 represents “Heil Hitler,” as H is the eighth letter of the alphabet. The number 14 references a 14-word white supremacist slogan about securing a future for white children.

Two local teens passing through the parking lot discovered the graffiti and alerted Northshore administrator Rebecca Slifkin.

After seeing media coverage, Stephen Landeche of Absolute Pressure Washing showed up unannounced the morning of Sept. 7 to volunteer his services and clean the graffiti.

On Sept. 16, the building was packed for a solidarity program as community members expressed their outrage over the graffiti. Civil rights icon Ruby Bridges spoke to the religious school students, to reassure them.

In October, Metairie artist Laurie Alan Browne painted a mural over the section of wall where the graffiti had been, with religious school students adding flowers to the garden scene.

According to the Mandeville Police, the arrest is the culmination of collaborative work of the Louisiana State Police Criminal Intelligence Unit and members of the FBI Joint Terrorism Taskforce, of which the Mandeville Police Department is a part of, along with other local, state and federal law enforcement partners.

Brown, who was a person of interest, was being interviewed by the JTTF as part of another matter. He confirmed that he had been in Mandeville the day of the incident, and cell phone records and tower data obtained by search warrant placed him in the vicinity of the synagogue on the day the incident.

A confidential source also stated that Brown had admitted to painting the graffiti.

Brown has a history of social media posts espousing Nazi beliefs, including Holocaust denial and using the term “synagogue of Satan.” On his social media accounts, which are now unavailable, he posted photos of himself in Nazi headgear and making Nazi salutes.

After being arrested, Brown was transported to Jefferson Parish Correctional Center where he was booked as a fugitive from St. Tammany and released to JPCC. Detectives from the Mandeville Police Department planned to transport Brown back to St Tammany on March 11 to be booked into the St. Tammany Parish Jail.

Sticker expressed solidarity with the Jewish community, saying “I am pleased that I can finally report to them that we have the individual that we believe is responsible for this despicable attack. I am appreciative of the tenacity of our investigators and I am grateful for the cooperation of the law enforcement community that made this arrest possible.”

Sticker added that “crime, especially ‘hate crime’ against any member of our community will not be tolerated and will be pursued, no matter the obstacles,” and he will “follow this case through adjudication and work with the DA’s Office to ensure this individual is held accountable.”

The arrest “is a welcome development in the battle against hate,” said Aaron Ahlquist, ADL’s regional director. “It is with gratitude that we congratulate the committed team of officers and agencies for their stubborn refusal to let this go, and the closure that they have brought to the Jewish community members who still feel the impact of that graffiti. They have sent a powerful message of support to the community, and a powerful message to those who would act on hate that that they will find you.”

“We are deeply appreciative that law enforcement never gave up on the pursuit of justice,” remarked Jewish Federation CEO Arnie Fielkow. “Only by standing up and confronting hate can we ever defeat bigotry.”